Stanley B. Visits Utah!

On October 8, we celebrated our 1-year anniversary for moving into our house. It was also Canadian Thanksgiving so nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving/1-Year Housewarming quite like our favorite dish from our local Mexican restaurant: The mighty Molcajete.

My mom is no longer able to travel and my dad has been her full-time caregiver for quite some time. My brother Jade, his boys and his new bride moved back home while Jade looks for a job so there was a small window of opportunity for Dad to come visit. My sister-in-law Jane helped in the evenings after work and I’m super grateful to everyone who pitched in because we had a really wonderful visit. My dad spends so much of his life taking care of everyone else so it was nice to give him a break.

The great thing about my dad is he’s super low-maintenance and we both love the outdoors so he was easily entertained. The colors were peaking in the mountains so he witnessed some serious fall splendor.

Day 1

Arrival, tour of Midway and drive up Memorial Hill.

Day 2

The weather forecast was iffy for the first several days so when we saw a window of opportunity, we took it to bike Provo Canyon Parkway to Bridal Veil Falls. Some of my favorite memories with Dad are of biking Calgary’s extensive network of bike paths so it was fun to share with him one of mine. That night, he treated us to dinner at Tucanos Brazilian Grill in Orem. 

 

Day 3

The Pumpkin Party!!!!!!!!!!

Day 4

The pumpkin weigh-off. Jamie took us to dinner at Tarahumara Mexican Restaurant to celebrate. And yes, that’s a giant pear. Pumpkins aren’t the only things that can be grown BIG!

Day 5

Church and SNOW?! This put a damper on our plans to see the Kokanee salmon run that afternoon but believe me when I say it worked out for the best.

Day 6

This was my favorite day! Due to our weather delay, we decided to drive up to Strawberry Reservoir on Monday to catch a glimpse of the Kokanee salmon run. If we had gone at any other time, we would have seen some of the salmon in the Strawberry River next to the visitor center (pretty cool) but because we went at this exact time, we got an in-depth look at the process in the Catch House (really cool).

There are only two mornings open for the public to access their fish trap station and it was FASCINATING to see the hundreds of bright red fish. We piggy-backed on an elementary school’s tour and listened as DWR biologists talked about the peculiar life cycle of the fish and how the Kokanee usually spawn when they are four years old and die quickly thereafter. As the fish instinctively swim up the river, they are caught in the trapping station and the male and females are separated until they’re ready to spawn. Since the females are going to die anyway, they are cut open and the eggs are squeezed out. They then take the males and squeeze the milt out of their bellies and fertilize the eggs.  In the wild, the average female has 1,200 eggs but only two survive in the wild. Through this process, there is a 98 percent survival rate that helps guarantee the survival species in Strawberry Reservoir.

eggs

One of Dad’s must-do activities was a leisurely soak in the Homestead Carter, a geothermal spring hidden in a 55-foot tall beehive-shaped limestone rock formation so the kids joined us after school.

To top off the day, we participated in the final Monday Midway Cruiser Cruise of the season. Every Monday night May through September, people in our quirky town gather for a casual bike ride on the beautiful country roads. For the final ride of the season, organizers christened it “The Bike Prom” and it was so fun to see all the awesome costumes. Jamie called me a flamingo but Hadley’s friend Zoe said I looked like a 1980s princess with this ugly outfit I found at the local thrift store.

Day 7

For Dad’s final full day, we did the Park City tour! We drove up Guardsman Pass with the oaks and maples positively on fire, cutting over to Park City where we strolled along the Poison Creek Trail past Shoe Tree Park and cutting over to historic Main Street. We had a late lunch at Cafe Zupas before heading back to Midway.

I love love love showing off our beautiful cut of paradise and I’m so grateful my dad was able to catch a glimpse.

 

The First Annual Utah Giant Pumpkin Party & Weigh-off!

I’ll admit I wasn’t too thrilled that Jamie wanted to go ahead with the pumpkin party this year. Our backyard doesn’t have any grass so I knew if it rained, it would turn into one big mud pit. But he persisted because he put a lot of effort into this season despite the MANY obstacles he has endured (winds, deer, cold nights) and was somehow able to crank out two of his biggest pumpkins (after his legendary 1,200-pound Stanley, of course).

We nervously watched the weather forecast all week and it wasn’t good. Rain. Then snow. Then back to rain again. I was convinced the whole thing would be a bust mere hours before the soiree. We decided to set up all the food in the garage and people could choose to eat inside to stay warm and dry. The weather miraculously cleared an hour before the party (apparently God is a pumpkin lover?) and we were left with a cool, brisk night.

We weren’t sure what kind of a turnout we would get for the party so invited everyone we knew and lo, they did come–we estimated about 75 people! It was a fun night but part of the problem with having the food in one place and the pumpkins in another is I didn’t get to have a stitch of food…nor was I around to refill plates and drinks. I definitely failed at my hostess duties because all the action was in the backyard.

The one picture I got of all the pumpkin treats…my pumpkin cheesecake trifle.

Moving onto the guest of honor: Meet “Jumbo” the pumpkin! I loved seeing everyone’s shocked expressions as the forklift lifted that bad boy out of the patch. There’s nothing quite like your first time.  At the party, my friend Kelly asked, “So, do you grow anything else?” What? Like food you can actually EAT? Silly woman.

I love our friend Jordan’s expression

My dad was able to visit for the week from Canada and he timed his trip around the Pumpkin Party. Here he is hanging out with Jamie’s dad, Duane.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be with so many friends and family. One of the things I miss the most about Colorado is having our house brimming with  people…I am continually frustrated we don’t have a finished backyard or basement so there’s nowhere for the kids to play. During the party, tons of them were roaming the field behind our house and afterwards, Porter, Callie and Ellie stayed to hang out.

This picture is the aftermath of a whipped cream fight. It would appear Hadley and Porter lost (or were they the winners?)

There were two different weigh-offs two weeks apart. Thanksgiving Point is the larger event where the growers bring their biggest pumpkins. Jumbo was 943.5 pounds and Jamie took fourth place. 

Two weeks later at the Hee Haw Farms weigh-off, Jamie’s weird-looking “Cujoe” somehow beat out “Jumbo” and weighed in at 965 pounds.

Hadley lost her plant early in the season and Bode’s “Ugly Duckling” pumpkin weighed 210 pounds. Both boys took fourth place.

All in all, it was a successful first growing season in Utah. Jamie is planning to install a high tunnel (similar to a greenhouse) in the corner of our lot, which should help with our weather challenges. As happy as he was with the final results, he was reminded how far he still has to go. Matt McConkie consistently dominates the competition and this year, he set yet another Utah state record: 1,974 pounds!

Jamie loves driving home from the weigh-off with his pumpkin in tow because of all the attention he gets. One man yelled out to him:

“Did you win?”

“No! I took fourth place.”

“How far were you behind first place?”

[Long pause] “1,000 pounds.”

Looks like our pumpkin boy has some catching up to do.

The best of times, the worst of times

Fall has been one of the most gorgeous I’ve ever witnessed. I’ve been bogged down with a feature article deadline for AAA Encompass Magazine that I finished on Friday so set the goal to get outdoors and play. Here’s just a sampling of yesterday’s hike:

The rest of my plans have been grounded because now I’m sick. I don’t know how to get a simple cold because almost every time, it evolves into a nasty sinus infection. Add that to all the sad, crummy things that are going on in the world and I’m definitely feeling the weight of it all.

A few weeks ago, I caught wind of a job that is PERFECT for me. Beyond perfect. As in this-is-custom-made-perfection-and-the-reason-you-were-supposed-to-move-to-Utah good. I breezed through the first two interviews and was told by the marketing manager if I was invited back for the third interview, “It is pretty much a done deal and we want you to meet the team.”

I got the call back for the third interview and it went fabulously well! Her parting words to me were, “We want to move quickly with this. Next steps are the background check” so call me crazy, but I figured I was IN…just without the official job offer.

So, I patiently waited. And planned. And started restructuring my life for going back to work. It was three-quarter time, which was the perfect fit because it was super flexible and paid well. Financially, things are so tight and it doesn’t help that my car is basically dead so we knew we had to buy a new car.

And then I heard back today and was told they offered the job to someone else.

My reaction? Shock. Then anger and annoyance. How dare they lead me on. And now I’m just disappointed because it really was the perfect fit and I just can’t believe anyone was more qualified than I. My friend Lori consoled me that they probably hired from within and the marketing manager’s consolation to me was that “I was in it until the bitter end.”

She’s right about the bitterness part.

I’m still in mourning but it has instilled within me the resolve to find something even better and that I’m just as passionate about. I don’t want just any position to pay the bills. I want something that really lights my fire so the search is on.

Well, once I get better, of course. Now, excuse me while I go blow my nose.

My Pumpkin Party Nightmares Revealed

Tonight is our First Annual Pumpkin Party in Utah and apparently I have just a few anxieties about it, most notably the fact that there is rain in the forecast and our backyard is one big expanse of dirt a.k.a. mud pit.

But little did I know it was much worse.

Last night, I dreamed I was in a Bishopric meeting with several ward members that was more like a business meeting because we were reviewing company numbers. A man in our ward, Jordan, was snoring on the floor and I whispered to Jamie, “Let’s not sleep next to HIS tent for the ward camp-out” and I was freaking out because it was taking forever and I still needed to setup for the party.

When it was finally finished, Jamie and I cut through people’s garages and yards to make it back in time but he was much faster and took off. Then I got attacked by a pack of five dogs and I shouted to him to help as they bit me but to no avail–he was long gone. I frequently have a dream that I’m in a dangerous situation and I try to call out but I can’t because I’m paralyzed in fear. I finally bit one of the dogs and released myself.

As I was racing out of the yard, I started talking to my former neighbors in Colorado, Angella and Steve. Angella would always go above-and-beyond with bringing the best pumpkin treats for the party + she and her family would pose in costume with The Great Pumpkin every year and send the picture to all her clients. They were great supporters of The Beast.

“I’m going to make my pumpkin treat tomorrow morning,” she said.

“Tomorrow? Why would you do that when the party is tonight?”

I learned the terrible truth: Jamie had put the wrong date on the invitations.

Then my alarm went off and I woke up in a panic.

Jamie says my dream confirmed to him that I have issues and my reply to that is it confirmed to me that when pumpkins are involved, he will leave me to the dogs. 

The End


The pumpkins during happier times in Colorado. Note: I don’t even remember taking and posting this picture, or that Fox News came to the house. I found this picture in a Google search

Happy 10-Year Anniversary to Mile High Mamas!

I was recently invited via one of my contacts on LinkedIn to tell the story of how I started Mile High Mamas and I realized September marks the 10-year anniversary of when we launched Mile High Mamas in 2007!

I moved to Denver in December 2003 and got married in February. Six months later, we decided to start our family and I was thrown into the whirlwind that is motherhood with a healthy dose of humility. I had moved to Colorado at the peak of my media career and my navigation skills for this new life were dismal, particularly when I gave birth to a beautiful but colicky daughter in 2004 who frequently voiced her displeasure about my parenting skills. I felt isolated and alone.

Writing had always been therapy for me so when my friend Kristy started this new thing called “a blog” on (now defunct) MSN Spaces, I was intrigued. A community of writers a.k.a. “bloggers” baring their souls and making friends while they did it? I was all-in and started my first blog, Crazy Bloggin’ Canuck, as a nod to my Canadian roots. I’ll never forget the first time CLICK TO KEEP READING.

Pumpkin widow reveals ugly truth behind pumpkin growing

I joked with Jamie that despite the fact I’ve long worked in the media, he has been interviewed way more times than I.  Never mind that he’s never actually won a pumpkin competition (besides his first one); the media swarms to him like honey.  That Pumpkin Man is newsworthy, no matter the size of his pumpkin.

Last week, he posted a picture of the pumpkin in our valley’s private Facebook group and asked to borrow a chain for lifting. The comments and “likes” were over-the-top. He had the Wasatch Wave (our valley’s newspaper) reach out and ask him to send a picture. They made him the front page feature story. 

Then yesterday, Fox News called him late in the day and requested an interview. It was such a last-minute decision that Jamie asked if they were having a slow news day. Reporter Jeff McAdam responded, “Actually, it’s a really busy day for news. We had a plane crash in Ogden today and we’ve had non-stop hurricane, flood and wildfire coverage. We needed a ‘soft’ news story that wasn’t depressing.”

If there’s anything that brings joy, it’s a giant pumpkins. Watch the news story on Fox 13 or see below.

The Fox news story:

Jamie and Amber Johnson have a handful of terms of endearment for one another, but there’s one that’s off limits.

“Definitely not pumpkin,” Amber Johnson snaps. “One time I went to bed and there was a seed where I normally lay and I thought, ‘Have I been replaced?’”

You see, Amber’s husband has another love. She says he keeps it in the backyard, and waters it twenty minutes a day. It’s a 1,000 pound pumpkin.

“If you were to ask my wife, she’d call this an obsession, I call it a passion,” Jamie Johnson responded.

It’s a passion that started for Johnson a decade ago after he grew a few “small” pumpkins in his backyard in Colorado.

“I had a couple pumpkins that were decent size, and I took the bigger one to a local weigh off and ended up winning first prize of 141 pounds. I was hooked.”

The state weigh-in takes place on September 23rd at Thanksgiving Point. The current record was set by Matt McConkie in 2014 with a pumpkin weighing 1817 lbs.

“This one’s still growing,” Johnson said as he pointed out the biggest pumpkin in his backyard, which he estimates weighs around a thousand pounds.

He feeds his pumpkin about twenty minutes of water, and about 12 different kinds of fertilizer, including sea weed and fish parts.

He says the best dirt for growing pumpkins sits on a geographical line between Rhode Island and Oregon, known as the “Orange Belt,” but, he says, the biggest key is the seed.

“The seeds that I’m growing, I can tell you who mama and papa are 25 generations back,” Johnson said. “The mama seed was 1985 pounds.”

Johnson has lots of pumpkin growing tips and advice, and even writes his own blog. His advice can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/giantpumpkins/?pnref=lhc

Two middle schoolers and one update

I still have many end-of-summer updates but I’m embroiled in the middle of a major deadline for a feature story I was commissioned to write for AAA Encompass Magazine. I never procrastinate but this is one assignment I had to put off until the kids were back in school because I knew it would be way out of my comfort zone. My dad is coming for a week so I’m trying to get the majority of it written so we can tour him around. Here are a few updates in the interim:

  • Middle school is fine. I’ve mentioned the fiery pits of Hades we endured the last few months of seventh grade but so far so good. The kids are quasi-enjoying themselves, half the school has a crush on Hadley so she’s a giggling, texting teenager (but still bombing math) and Bode has acclimated to changing classes. I’m bracing myself for the worst but pleasantly surprised the bottom hasn’t fallen out. Yet.
  • I have made a point to never over-schedule my kids but having tweens/teens is a different ballgame. They used to play for hours outside with friends or with their toys but now, downtime to them means technology time and I’ll be darned if I let them waste away in front of their screens so it’s a daily battle. Bode’s schedule picks up this week and he’ll be juggling piano, rec soccer, coding class at the library and 11-Year-Old Scouts. Hadley is the bigger challenge. She’ll have volleyball and skiing this winter but for now, the only thing she has a desire to do is photography. Fortunately, that gets her outside but I’ve given her fair warning she needs to figure out something active these next months–for her sanity and my own.
  • The devastation in the world has felt overwhelming. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  An earthquake in Mexico and the west set ablaze by wildfires. I’m not a doomsdayer but it’s tough to ignore the many signs of the times and we’ve been studying them in the scriptures with the kids at night. Nothing has hit closer to home than when my BFF Stacey sent me an article that my beloved childhood playground–Waterton Lakes National Park–is on fire and teams are trying to save the iconic Prince of Wales hotel that stands as sentry over the valley. This crap just got real.

  • On a lighter note (or rather, literally much heavier), pumpkin season is in full swing and despite so many challenges growing in a new environment (that include deer, snow, cold nights and extreme winds), Jamie has managed to crank out a respectable pumpkin that is measuring around 800-1,000 pounds. We’re throwing our annual pumpkin party next week to confirm to our new friends just how strange we are and then it will be off to the weigh-off. Our local newspaper is publishing a picture of his pumpkin tomorrow and the chamber is trying to finagle the pumpkin to make some celebrity appearances at local media events. If he was well-known in Denver, he’s going to be downright famous in our little valley.

Let the games begin!

 

Oh Canada: The Lakehouse

Though we love our annual trip to Lake Okanagan, a week-long stay is a bit too long for me (disclaimer: I start to get the most antsy when it is 100+ degrees, which isn’t super fun when the house is sweltering). However this year we only had four nights and five days that I discovered was way too short. So, here’s for hoping we find our happy medium.

It’s taken me quite a few years to acclimate to the water. It’s amazing my brother Pat and I are even related given how obsessed he is with boating because we never grew up around it. He just bought a fancy fifth wheeler that is parked at Keho Lake for optimal kiteboarding opportunities and travels the world seeking the next big adventure.

This year was a milestone for our family: we were all able to wakesurf on our own and we loved it! Bode tried last year but needed help getting out of the water from Jane. They purchased a new kid-sized surfboard and that made all the difference. So dang fun! 

The kid even learned to walk on water.

Jamie and I hate to admit it but Hadley surpassed us out there. By the end of the week, she was able to drop the rope and was figuring out how to ride the wake. I wish she had more chances to go because she could be really good.

Jamie did pretty darn awesome as well. We were at the same level all week and on the very last run, something clicked and surfed better than he ever has. Note: This happens to us every ski season as well…your skiing is at its very best on the last day and then we have to wait for the following year.

Of course, there is always this. Tubing: It’s not for grownups. 

The only traditions we weren’t able to fit in were Screamers (part slushy, part ice cream) and backyard movie night on Todd’s beach because massive flooding completely took out his yard. And we added some new ones: Ashton and I did an “Olympic swim training” and by the last day, several of the kids had joined in.

Of course, there was the annual dive-off. Yes, Pat won AGAIN.

My niece Emily brought her beau to the lake: Jer the Irishman. He almost died during the dive-off but no judgment here; I won’t get my face wet.

Of course, we had to go to tourist trap Davison Orchards for their out-of-this world fresh apple slushies, peach pies and fuuuuuudge.

And lots of quality cousin time.

Jax’s charming glasses

After such a memorable week at play, maybe just maybe Pat will make water people out of us all. Here’s to next summer at the lake!

Oh Canada: The Wedding

Our trip to Calgary was not one of leisure. When my car broke down, we were a day behind schedule so we delved into a busy schedule of wedding prep, Bode’s birthday and our favorite traditions.

Bode is a low-maintenance kid and thankfully so because I didn’t have energy to pull together a big soiree. He was perfectly happen with Timbits (famous doughnut holes) for breakfast, lots of video game time, and Peter’s Drive-in for dinner. My friend Stacey’s dad belongs to this gorgeous private lake community, Lake Sundance, so we were thrilled  to spend the afternoon there. Thanks, Burton!

What would a trip to Calgary be without our hidden mud pits in Fish Creek Provincial Park.

And cleaning up in our favorite swimming hole.

The kids always love going for a ride in Grandpa’s fancy convertible. Kind of.

I usually do a 40-mile loop on Calgary’s extensive network of bike paths but there was no time on this trip. (Insert sad face). Fortunately I was able to sneak away a couple of mornings to ride through Fish Creek and it was enough.

There was a lot of pre-wedding chaos as we helped with the flowers. While the boys were at their bachelor party, Mom treated the girls to a night out as well.

The night before Jade’s wedding, my brother Pat and his wife Jane threw a big pizza party so both sides of the family could meet. My friend Stacey was a lifesaver and picked up Jamie from the airport so I could help with the festivities that involved a lot of fun and food (two of Jane’s specialties).

Apparently I didn’t take any pictures of Jade and his bride Jen or her side of the family. They were allegedly in attendance. :-)

And then came the big day! My brother Jade is one of the best people I know–a kind, practical jokester with infinite integrity and endless forgiveness. He has been through A LOT the past several years and I’m so glad he found a good woman to take to the LDS Calgary Temple. Mom’s health has been rapidly declining. I’ve been barely able to talk to her this year because her hearing is so bad, she’s often incoherent and sleeps 95% of the time. The morning of the wedding, my niece Ashton came over to do her hair and make-up and she looked beautiful.

I feel like she’s been hanging on to see my brother get remarried but she was often confused as we were getting ready and driving to the temple. “Why is everyone all dressed up? Are we going to church? Where are you taking me?” 

But as soon as we entered the sacred sealing room in the temple, she was 100% lucid and connected as she watched her youngest son get married for time and eternity. Following pictures in front of the temple, she insisted on treating everyone to Smashburger and then somehow was able to stay awake for the dinner at the reception and several of the speeches. Only after my dad spoke did he finally take her home.  What a tender mercy she was able to be there!

The reception at the Alma Hotel was light-hearted and fun with beautiful speeches, a horrible prank (yes Jade, I’m talking about that blackmail photo you included of me during your courtship slideshow), Emily catching the bouquet and lots of dancing (best moment: dragging reluctant cousin Richard to awkwardly dance Gangnam Style with us. It was a night, a couple to be celebrated and I couldn’t be happier for my brother and his beautiful new bride!

P.S. Hey Jeek, just remember payback will be sweet.

Fresh Peach Pie and Peach Dream Crunchy Topping

It has been a while since I’ve posted any recipes but my gosh, these are soooooo worth it. We have been living, breathing and inhaling peaches around here–everything from simple peaches ‘n cream to peach scones to peach shortcake. I posted a picture of Grandma’s Fresh Peach Pie when my friend Lisa gave me a new addiction: Peach Dream Crunchy Topping. 

In her words, this treat is hot/cold, crunchy/soft, sweet/salty–a juxtaposition of every taste experience. It tastes like the best granola you’ve ever eaten but without the oats. Guaranteed, this will soon become a family favorite. And kuddos to Hadley for her stellar food styling and photography. She’s got the gift!

Peach Dream Crunchy Topping

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 1/2 cup coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sliced almonds

Instructions: Combine all ingredients and press into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to form course crumbs. Cool. Use as a topping for ice cream, along with fresh peaches and a drizzle of caramel sauce.

And while we’re at it, Grandma Linda’s famous peach pie recipe!

Fresh Peach Pie with Shortbread Crust

1.5 cups of butter
3 cups of flour
1/2 cup of sugar
Dash of salt

Mix and press onto 2 pie plates. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until edges lightly browned and let cool.

Filling
2 cups of boiling water
2 1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup of cold water
3/4 cup corn starch
1 3-oz package of peach Jello
1/4 cup of lemon juice
4-6 fresh peaches

Instructions: Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Mix sugar, salt and cornstarch with the cold water. Pour the mixture into the boiling water and let it cook until it is thick and clear (about 5 minutes). Add the Jello powder and cook for another minute. Take the saucepan off the heat and add the lemon juice. Let it cool. Peel and cut the peaches and stir them in. Pour into the pie shells and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. Makes 2 peach pies.